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8 May 1996

Original: FRENCH


Fifty-second session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 20 March 1996, at 3 p.m.

Chairman: Mr. VERGNE SABOIA (Brazil)





The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.





8. Mr. TORELLA di ROMAGNANO (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union under agenda item 4, said that the following countries with links with the European Union had expressed the wish to be associated with his statement: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia. He welcomed the progress towards achieving peace in the Middle East which had taken the form of the redeployment by Israel of its military forces, a transfer of powers to the Palestinian Authority and the organization of Palestinian general elections on 20 January 1996. The European Union, which had played a primary role in the observer operations in connection with the elections, could not but be satisfied with their success. It now devolved on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, who could depend on support from the European Union, to make the most of that success in order to strengthen the rule of law and guarantee respect for human
rights in the territories.

9. As had been reasserted at the Sharm-el-Sheikh summit, the European Union strongly condemned all acts of terrorism or violence, but stressed that the struggle against terrorism must be conducted with full respect for human rights. It considered that the human rights situation in the occupied territories continued to arouse some concern and should not be ignored.

10. The European Union took note of the Special Rapporteur's concerns regarding the terms of his mandate. Like him, it considered that work on establishing Israeli settlements should cease completely, and that the commitments made on both sides should be respected.

11. The European Union attached paramount importance to the forthcoming negotiations aimed at defining the final status of the occupied territories; where Jerusalem was concerned, until a solution was found, nothing should be done that might call in question the status quo. Until the matter was finally settled, the Union would continue to provide financial support for the efforts in progress; there was no need to remind participants that the European Union was the principal supplier of financial assistance to the Palestinian people.

12. As had been said on the occasion of the recent Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Barcelona, peace in the Middle East must be fair and comprehensive, and considerable progress would need to be made in the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese sectors of the peace process. In that regard, the European Union recalled its commitment to Security Council resolution 425 (1978).

13. Mr. MEGHLAOUI (Algeria) considered it vital that the agreements reached in the context of the Middle East peace process should be implemented within the established deadline and in all good faith. In that region, as elsewhere, it was time for the international legitimacy to which the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council referred to prevail. The Palestinian people must recover its legitimate national rights and enjoy full independence within its own State, with Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital. Welcoming the elections held in January, he expressed the hope that the international community would help the Palestinian people to rebuild its war-stricken country.

14. He shared nearly all conclusions and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur concerning the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The Commission must draw conclusions from Israel's persistent refusal to comply with the resolutions calling upon it to put an end to its many human rights violations, which had been well documented by the Special Rapporteur.


16. Mr. HAUGESTAD (Norway) said that the peace process initiated in the Middle East had brought almost revolutionary changes to the region and had laid the foundations for self-determination and for the democratization of society, which were prerequisites for the enjoyment of human rights.

17. The peace process was currently threatened by acts of terror which created a climate of fear and insecurity. It was important that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories should properly address the reality of the process. The mandate should cover both the self-governing and the occupied territories and should be carried out in close cooperation with the Palestinian and Israeli authorities. It should also be reviewed annually in order to take account of the rapidly changing circumstances.

18. An effective strategy to combat terrorism within the rule of law was called for. His Government believed that effective measures compatible with human rights and fundamental freedoms could be found. It fully subscribed to the conclusions of the International Summit of Peacemakers in Sharm-El-Sheikh and supported the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Peres, and the Palestinian President, Mr. Arafat, in their efforts to combat terrorism and bring the peace process to a successful conclusion.

19. Mr. BENJELLOUN TOUIMI (Observer for Morocco) welcomed the fact that both Palestinians and Israelis remained firmly committed to advancing the peace process in the Middle East despite the tragic events which had marked 1995 and the start of 1996. The international community must provide firm moral, political and especially economic support to the parties which had taken a gamble on peace. The strengthening of the peace process should go hand in hand with scrupulous observance of human rights, and it was vital in that connection that the question of the Israeli settlements should be resolved, the practice of collective punishments abandoned, access to places of worship ensured and better treatment given to prisoners.

20. He was confident that Israelis and Palestinians would find an appropriate response to the questions which divided them and also hoped that the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli negotiations would achieve results which would be acceptable to all parties, on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, particularly Security Council resolution 425 (1978).


22. Mr. TABIBI (World Islamic Call Society) recalled that the right to self-determination was one of the basic principles of modern international law, and regretted that it was still widely flouted, especially in the Islamic world. The situation in Chechnya, in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Kashmir, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in many other countries was known to all. Since justice was an essential part of peace-keeping, it would be appropriate for an international criminal tribunal to try the perpetrators of the atrocities to which the peoples of those countries were subjected.


28. Mr. FELNER (International Human Rights Law Group) stated that he was the Deputy Director of B'Tselem, the leading Israeli NGO monitoring the human rights situation in the occupied territories. That situation had seriously deteriorated since the beginning of the peace process in 1993 on account of the numerous violations of human rights by Israel, which were summarized in the report of the Special Rapporteur (E/CN.4/1996/18). Of particular concern was the recent drafting of a bill which would provide legal sanction for the torture and ill-treatment used by Israel's security agents.

29. Israel claimed that such measures were necessary to ensure the security of its citizens, increasingly threatened by recent attacks. However, security considerations could not justify the stringent punitive measures recently taken by Israel, such as detention of the family members of the perpetrators of attacks, the demolition of their homes, curfews, closure of towns and villages and the closing-down of educational institutions. None of those measures took account of the basic legal tenet of individual criminal responsibility which Israel respected when Israelis committed crimes against Palestinian citizens but which it did not hesitate to ignore in the case of Palestinians. Moreover, there was no evidence that those measures were effective as a deterrent of future attacks on the Israeli population; on the contrary, they were liable to drive increasingly desperate Palestinians into the ranks of extremist organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

30. The other argument put forward to justify human rights violations in the occupied territories was that during the interim period in the peace process human rights were inevitably sacrificed for the sake of peace. For the victims of those violations, however, only the current painful reality counted, and could not be modified by the prospect of future peace. Peace based on violations of human rights could only be fragile and vulnerable.

31. His organization also wished to point out that human rights violations were also perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority in the areas under its control - in particular, arbitrary arrests, detention without charge or trial, torture during interrogations and unfair trials - and denounced the attempts of the Palestinian Authority to intimidate and silence its critics, particularly journalists.

32. It was imperative that the international community should ensure that the protection of the human rights of the inhabitants of the occupied territories became an integral part of the peace process. It was time to recognize that security could be protected without violating basic human rights and that equitable coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians based on the mutual respect of fundamental human rights was the only basis for a just and lasting peace

33. Mr. DIENG (International Commission of Jurists) welcomed the fact that the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories had been able to visit the Gaza Strip and discuss the human rights situation with Palestinian officials. Israeli cooperation would also, however, have been necessary, and he regretted its absence. His organization was aware of the problems to which the atrocious suicide bomb attacks in Israel in recent months had given rise - attacks which it had severely condemned - but it was persuaded that a lasting peace in the region required human rights to be preserved. In that connection, it noted with concern the restrictive measures which the Israeli Government had decided to apply to the Palestinian community in response to those attacks. Those measures directly impinged on the right to work and the freedom of movement of the Palestinians, and caused them serious economic and personal hardship, in some instances even putting their lives in jeopardy. His organization reiterated the concerns expressed about the use of torture and the elaboration of an Israeli bill that would legalize it. It stressed once again that the measures taken by Israel must be consistent with fundamental human rights and humanitarian law.

34. Another area of concern was the administration of justice in the autonomous areas under the Palestinian Authority. Several persons had been detained without trial and some had died in custody. Special courts which conducted trials in camera had been established. Most of those measures had been taken in response to pressure from Israel and even the United States of America. The inadequate experience of the Palestinian Authority in the conduct of public affairs made the situation worse. However, the Commission appreciated its willingness to collaborate with the Special Rapporteur and endorsed the latter's recommendation that his mandate should be expanded to deal with the new realities (E/CN.4/1996/18, para. 40). The Palestinian Authority could certainly benefit from the valuable experience of the local NGOs, which had helped the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to survive throughout the period of occupation.

The meeting rose at 5 p.m.

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